If someone promised to give you $7.7 million for you to use to pay for something you really, really need – well, it would make sense to wait on that money for a long time.
But it’s impossible to wait forever. That’s the situation the Guilford County Board of Commissioners found itself in recently after it had been hoping for over a year that the State of North Carolina would grant the county $7.7 million for a new mental health center now under construction just north of downtown Greensboro. Now, however, Guilford County has plugged that nearly $8-million hole with county money.
Many Guilford County officials say they’re still keeping their fingers crossed that the state will come through with the money in the end. However, Guilford County waited well over a year for the expected money from the state and the project bills are coming due.
Early last year, as the shift to a new mental health system in Guilford County and the planning for the project were getting underway, all the signs pointed to $7.7 million in state help being a virtually done deal. However, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the state budget passed by the legislature which included that money and the state never passed a budget in 2019. In March, the coronavirus pandemic hit and put a greater strain on the state budget.
So, Guilford County is now shifting county funds from other places to make up the shortfall for the mental health center project. In 2019, Guilford County sold two-third bonds – a special bond offering that allows, without voter approval, the county to borrow up to two-thirds of the bond debt it paid off in the previous year. It raised that money to fund a number of capital projects including a new animal shelter, an Emergency Services vehicle maintenance facility and base, and a new Sheriff’s Department headquarters.
The board filled the $7.7-million hole with $4.8 million from bond proceeds from that sale and also took $630,000 from the bond premium – extra money that comes in from a bond sale since buyers pay over par for the attractive government bonds. The Guilford County commissioners also appropriated $2.2 million and change from the county’s savings account to make up the shortfall.